School Superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves appeared before the aldermen to request a conditional use permit for the former West Jefferson elementary school, currently being used by pre-k classes as the Early Learning Center. He said the board of education is looking toward moving the central office in Jefferson due to needed repairs on the main building and a lack of space in the main office and annex. It is something the board has been considering for some time, but at this time is merely exploring options, Reeves said.
What caused the lengthy discussion among the aldermen was Reeves’ request to put a school maintenance building where the abandoned tennis courts now exist. That would be down the hill in front of the former elementary school and directly behind Badger’s Funeral Home.
Reeves said the board intends to create an aesthetically pleasing building that would be complimentary to the surrounding area. It would not be the bus garage, he said, but mainly a storage facility for school equipment.
Alderman Stephen Shoemaker said he is not in favor of allowing a maintenance building at that site. He said town organizations had worked hard to give the town a nice look, especially on that Main Street area, and he couldn’t see a maintenance building so close to Badger’s and the arts center across the street.
“Over time, we know how maintenance buildings start to look,” Shoemaker said, noting the condition of buildings being used down Hice Street from the former West Jefferson school. He added that he would like to see conceptual drawings for such a building before he would make a decision.
Alderman Brett Summey said he didn’t see a problem if the two boards worked together, that there are other such buildings in town that are fixed up nice. And Alderman Calvin Green agreed, saying the town would benefit from the utility fees having the central office there, and employees would come downtown to eat lunch or shop which would benefit businesses. Those tennis courts are an eyesore, Green said.
Reeves said the board of education has not gone so far as to hire an architect for designing a maintenance building; they have just walked through the facility to see what would be needed should the central office move in. Funding would have to be secured, he said, and the board is looking at maybe two years before making a decision. The current central office annex is owned by the county and the whole facility is in need of $30-50,000 in repairs.
The board decided to have their attorney, David Paletta, and their planning director, Matthew Levi, rework the zoning ordinance text amendment. Paletta said the current text amendment, under comment for the board’s public hearing on this issue Monday night, did not seem to address all their concerns. He suggested they postpone any decision on the requested conditional use permit until those concerns had been satisfied with the language of the text amendment and the two boards could have more dialogue on the issue.
Paletta said the aldermen must make a decision in 35 days or send the issue back to the town planning board. Postponing until the meeting in October would meet that time limit, he said.
In other business, the board heard from Town Manager Brantley Price that the town will receive $86,500 in grant money from the ARC .and Clean Water Management Trust Fund toward repair of the sewer line running from the Wilco station to the town treatment plant. There are structural problems in the decades old line and manholes too low, resulting in water intake and seepage. An engineering study and bidding for the work will take place in the spring to replace the line.
With 90 percent of the town’s sewer lines videotaped by Mike Acquesta, the board can now look at other problem areas and seek grant funding for needed repairs.
The board also approved a design for decorative banners to be purchased by the Tourism Development Authority and hung on the new street lamps, on brackets that will be purchased by the town. The banners will be burgundy with cream lettering that states: Welcome to Historic Downtown West Jefferson. TDA will purchase 50 banners for approximately $3,500-4,000 and the town will purchase the needed brackets for about the same amount. They expect to have the banners up sometime this fall.